Here's yet another flick that needs no introduction. The modern horror film would not exist if it wasn't for Hitchcock's "Psycho." In fact, it would take about a decade for other filmmakers to follow up with anything nearly as shocking as this wonderful, masterpiece of a movie. In fact again, it may be the only film ever to have been completely remade, shot for shot, by another filmmaker decades later and released to theaters.
One can only assume that you've seen this movie and frankly don't need to know what it's about. So I'm going to talk a bit about the film's trailer, something that's tougher to come by, but is actually a must-see. It appears before some Hitchcock films on tape and it's wonderful. It's also available on the DVD, naturally. Hitchcock basically walks us through a tour of the Bates Motel, with moody moments from Bernard Herrmann's original score playing in the background.
Hitchcock had a real sense of humor about this movie—but it wasn't shared by many when this film was released in 1960. Some audience members fainted during original screenings of the film. Critics derided it. Those whimps.
Hitchcock was shooting films in color at the time, but used the crew of his "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV series and shot it in black and white. A chocolate syrup-like substance was used for blood in the movie, a trick used in other B&W horror films like "Night of the Living Dead."
"Psycho" truly changed movies forever. Every splatter film ever made borrows from it. "Halloween," "Friday the 13th," "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" are all based on it to such an extent that it's almost forgotten where many of today's horror conventions stem from this black-and-white taboo torcher.
Perkins, of course, plays Norman Bates, the owner of an out-of-the-way motel who has a mother complex and finds himself attracted to Janet Leigh, a guest who is on the run after stealing $40,000 from her employer. Leigh, in case you didn't know, is the mother of Jamie Lee Curtis who of course would star in another landmark horror film, "Halloween."
If you haven't seen this movie (and, tragically, there are many young people who haven't), go rent it today—right now, in fact. It's absolutely fantastic. Even as an "old" movie, it's highly entertaining, still scary and is even Rated R, despite its age.
Generally this list doesn't feature films that pre-date 1970, but "Psycho" is so incredible and so timeless, it had to be included. There's a magic to this movie that no one has been able to recapture since. The shot-for-shot remake made in 1998—despite the fact that it literally copies every scene, line and camera angle from the original—fails to recapture any of the atmosphere and horror that Hitchcock delivered.
The original is suspenseful, scary, disturbing, thought-provoking and sexy. The score by Bernard Hermann is breathtaking. There were a number of sequels in the 1980s, all of them worth seeing, particularly 1983's "Psycho II."